Where Are Your Digital Assets?

First, what is a Digital Asset?  It is personal information that is stored electronically on either a computer or an online “cloud” server account.  If you use a computer, a password protected cell phone, social media, OR if you make online purchases, pay bills or do banking online – you have digital assets to consider.

Generally required is a user name and a password and/or PIN to access.  If a family member or friend becomes incapacitated or passes away, it is almost impossible to retrieve information without the user name and log in information.

Take time to record all of your digital assets in a safe place.  Share the information with the person to whom you have granted power of attorney, with your executor, and with other trusted people who would need to have it.

Need help identifying the potential digital assets? Consider the following:

Electronic Devices; Benefit Accounts; E-mail accounts; Financial accounts; online merchant accounts  – Amazon or Zappos.; Organization Accounts; Photography and Music Accounts; Publication Accounts; Social Media Accounts; Video Account; Virtual Currency Accounts with Cash Value; and Web Site Accounts.

So how do you plan for your digital assets? 

Use specific language in estate planning documents (will, trusts, and power of attorney) that authorizes your representative to handle digital assets as well as tangible assets.  Make a list of your digital assets in your will as you would for untitled personal property.  Don’t include private information (e.g. passwords) in your will, however, as it becomes a public document after someone dies.


Susan Taylor

Susan Taylor

Resources are important whether you are looking to rent your first apartment, pay your bills, buy your first home or send your child to college. There are many ways to save money to reach your goals, and hopefully ISU Money Tip$ will be one of them. I enjoy traveling, needlework and am a novice gardener.

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Credit Reports: Changes in 2018

A big thank you is in order from Iowa consumers to the Legislature, Governor Kim Reynolds, and Attorney General Tom Miller for passage and enactment of Senate File 2177  . Beginning on July 1st you will no longer be charged fees to use a “freeze” on your credit report.

The Equifax Breach put many individuals in a pool of consumers whose personal information was compromised. Faced with potential misuse, one step to limit damage was freezing your credit report at the three credit reporting bureaus, but the cost was $30.  In passing the new law, Iowa government officials reasoned that consumers should not be forced to bear the cost when a reporting bureau is negligent.

The credit bureaus are also making other changes: what data they collect; how it is reported; and credit score calculations.

  • All public record information, except for bankruptcy, is being removed from files.
  • Reports on medically-related debts are held for six months before posting to allow for insurance closures.
  • Medical debt is given less weight compared to other consumer spending when calculating your credit score.
  • Rent data can now be included in your credit report; only positive reports will be accepted.
  • A series of auto or mortgage inquiries are treated as one event.
  • Paid collection accounts will be removed from reports.
  • Keeping a card open that is paid in full will not help your credit score if it isn’t used. A card that is not used in a 3-6 month time period is dropped from credit score calculations.

Checking your credit report for accuracy is a good habit to maintain. If you haven’t checked yours in the past 12 months, now would be a good day to start!

Joyce Lash

Joyce Lash

Joyce Lash is a Human Sciences Specialist in Family Finance who wants to keep you ahead of the curve on financial information.

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Helping the High School Graduate Financially

Let’s be truthful, some of us do an excellent job helping our 17-18 year old get ready for the real world even if we also remember situations when we hope they didn’t pay too close attention to our bad habits.  Adult finance is complicated by some natural tendencies toward spending and savings. I’ve heard more than one parent wonder out loud how a child could grow up in their house and manage money the way they do.

Whether you have full confidence in their money management skills or expect to get several calls asking for guidance when the issue is totally out of hand, here are some tips that may help you and the 17-18 year old in your life:

Reduce their risks-

  • Review your insurance policies and find out if the coverage extends to include their property while they are living away from home temporarily. If they are leaving home permanently, pick up information about renters policies and explain it to them.
  • Share tips about auto insurance coverage. Remind them that valuables in the vehicle are not insured. Consider whether it makes financial sense to have them insured through their own policy. If the premium will exceed 10% of the value of the vehicle, it may be time to switch to liability only.
  • If they will continue to be covered by your health insurance plan: 1) confirm they will have access to the network providers; 2) make sure they are carrying an insurance card; and 3) share a quick reminder of typical preventive services and what to plan for co-pays.

Think ahead-

  • Recommend filling out their W-4 with a 0 for withholding exemptions until they have filed their first tax return. Several part-time jobs combined together can result in underpayment of taxes due.
  • Consider giving them a list of the records you save, electronically or on paper, for financial reasons.
  • Give them a shredder.  Not an exciting gift, but important to keep their identity intact.

Keep the door open for conversations without judgement. We’ve all done stupid things with money – why not make sure the young adult learns some lessons from you and not the hard way.


Joyce Lash

Joyce Lash

Joyce Lash is a Human Sciences Specialist in Family Finance who wants to keep you ahead of the curve on financial information.

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Red Flags

My work in family finance has taught me to never give my social security number or the security number on the back of my credit card if the call wasn’t initiated by me. That practice has served me well on two recent occasions.

The first situation occurred after the purchase of a vehicle. The caller identified himself as an employer of the lender; he was verifying insurance coverage. I’ve received mail from lenders in the past asking that proper insurance coverage verification be sent, but never a call. The big red flag for me was when I was asked to give my social security number.  “The insurance issue was taken care of at the time of purchase,” I stated and hung up.

This weekend the call was from an individual that identified themselves as representing my satellite provider. The caller stated, “We’ve recently updated to a new satellite service and your receiver will not continue to function with the new service. Please turn on your TV and press menu twice. On the the screen please read the receiver ID number.”  (This all seemed accurate and a reasonable request.)

“Yes, your equipment will not continue to work properly, we’ll need to send you a new receiver,” he said. (More details about my service that were accurate.) Directions were given for how the exchange would occur. I stated the equipment had only been replaced a year or two ago and wondered how it could be out of date. “Your receiver is like a computer, he said, “over time the technology has to be replaced.”

The next item of business was the charge. The caller explained that I would be charged for the new equipment, but would receive a monthly credit for 24 months that would be twice the initial up front fee.  Then he confirmed my address, phone number and proceeded to read off my credit card number. It was my first red flag. I didn’t think I had ever shared my credit card with this provider. The number given was correct, but the expiration date was wrong. I immediately gave the correct one and then he read the security code. Pause, RED FLAG, RED FLAG, RED FLAG!  I didn’t give the right one. The caller seemed annoyed, “Are you absolutely sure that is the correct number?”  ” Yes”, I lied.  I was given a call back number, name and code number for the caller. My order would be shipped in one or two days.

I called the satellite provider next to verify and learned it was a fraud. I was directed to their fraud department for additional assistance. The next call was to the credit card company, even though they didn’t get the code they needed, there was too much information out there on that account. It’s been canceled.

I hung up on the call that came the next day!  Thinking back over the situation, it is very easy to be caught off guard. What saved me was a resolve to never share my social security number or the verification/security number on the back of credit cards unless I make the call.  Callers are clever, I’m adding the practice of saying, “In this case, I’ll call your company directly. Good Bye.”




Joyce Lash

Joyce Lash

Joyce Lash is a Human Sciences Specialist in Family Finance who wants to keep you ahead of the curve on financial information.

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